Mississippi River bridge closure affects top 100 list of truck bottlenecks

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,348 views 

A new traffic congestion report from American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) shows how the three-month closure of the Interstate 40 Hernando de Soto Bridge last year affected the annual list of top truck bottlenecks in the United States.

According to the Arkansas Trucking Association, the interchange at Interstates 55 and 40 in Memphis made the top 100 list for the first time. Last week, ATRI, the nonprofit research organization for the trucking industry, released its 2022 Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks showing the interchange was No. 42 on the list. It previously had reached No. 217, with an average truck speed of 55 mph and no congestion because of reduced traffic at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The inclusion of the I-55 and I-40 intersection in this year’s list of bottlenecks underscores what a major disruption the bridge closure inflicted on our industry,” said Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association. “The I-40 bridge is a vital connector of east and west coast commerce, and the three-month closure had a significant national impact on trade, trucking and costs in the supply chain.”

Before a large crack was discovered in the bridge spanning the Mississippi River, the bridge handled about 40,000 vehicles per day, of which 12,500 were commercial trucks. When the crack was found and the bridge closed on May 11, traffic was detoured to the I-55 bridge, which carried more than 55,000 vehicles a day, including 14,000 commercial trucks.

Using ATRI data, the closure was initially estimated to cost the trucking industry $2.4 million per day. Following advanced traffic engineering and lane shifts, the delays and costs were reduced to less than $1 million per day. The total cost of the 83-day closure was more than $120 million to the industry, according to the Arkansas Trucking Association. After bridge repairs were completed, its eastbound lanes reopened July 31, and the westbound lanes reopened Aug. 2.

The Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks report measured the level of truck-involved congestion at more than 300 locations on the national highway system. The No. 1 freight bottleneck in the United States for the fourth consecutive year is the intersection of Interstate 95 and State Route 4 in Fort Lee, N.J. Rounding out the top five bottlenecks are intersections in Cincinnati, Houston and two in Atlanta.

“ATRI’s bottleneck list is a roadmap for federal and state administrators responsible for prioritizing infrastructure investments throughout the country,” Newton said. “A bottleneck wastes time, fuel, money and presents its own safety concerns for all travelers in the region.”